KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
November 15, 2018
Natalie Cook Clark and Katrina Katsarelis
As spending increases this holiday season so do the number of scammers looking for easy victims. Many of the scams are charity based and intentionally designed to tug at the heartstrings of caring Katy residents. Here are some common Katy scams that are circulating now or that generally peak during the holiday season.
Residents in Fulshear received this "Community Water Test" scam.
After hearing reports of a few scams currently happening in the Katy area, Katy Magazine did some digging and found some of the most commons ones to beware of this holiday season.
Fake Mandatory Water Testing
Recently, the City of Katy received numerous phone calls from residents asking about the
mandatory water testing that was taking place. Various individuals posing as official “water inspectors” offer to test homeowner’s tap water for levels of chlorine, pH levels, arsenic, and then convince the homeowner that they need to purchase an expensive filtration system for the home. The City of Katy posted the following alert on social media warning residents:
ATTENTION RESIDENTS: There have been reports of residents receiving phone calls for mandatory water testing in the evening. This is NOT from the City of Katy and the testing is not endorsed by the City. Residents are urged to call Katy Police at 281.391.4848 if you are approached by someone you suspect is a solicitor or scammer.
Similarly, residents in Fulshear recently returned home to find door hangers at their home talking about a “Community Water Test.” The flier included an empty vial to insert your sample of water. The residents giving out their personal information would then be solicited by water filtration sales people.
Fake Centerpoint Energy Scam
This week, many residents in Katy got a phone call from a heavily-thick accented man claiming to be an agent with Centerpoint Energy. When Centerpoint Energy was notified they confirmed that the call was not from them and that it was a scam, someone trying to get personal information from Katy residents or sell them their own energy services.
These are dangerous because you truly believe you are being emailed by a trusted source such as your bank, Amazon, Google or Paypal when really you are handing over your personal information to a scammer. To not fall for this scam, check the site for unusual writing, misspelling, and the wrong use of a logo. Check the URL for the basic amazon.com (not Amazoon.com or YourAmazon.com) Actually read everything. Make sure that "Paypal" is spelled correctly in the URL. Things like this are easy to glance over when really warning signs are right in front of you.
Secret Sisters Gift Exchange or Wine Gift Exchange Facebook Scam
This is a popular seasonal Facebook scam that's actually an illegal pyramid scheme. The process usually involves sending one present (or one bottle of wine) and receiving 36 in return. Participants are instructed to send a gift to the first “sister” on the list, move the second on the list to the first spot, and put their own name into the second spot, and so on. The problem according to Snopes is that this scam is an unfulfillable promise, much like a chain letter.
Help Buy My Groceries
A Katy women reported on social media warning of a solicitor inside a store. As she was shopping, a woman at the Krogers on Westheimer and Mason Road approached her for money. The woman had a child approximately 12 years old and a cart with groceries in it. The woman walked up and down the aisles posing as a shopper but asking for money.
Often times senior citizens are contacted with false claims that a grandchild or love one is in trouble. The scam often involves money needing to be wired immediately. First of all if a loved one is truly in trouble they are unlikely to ask for help through email. Also, you should never send money to family unless you have spoken to them and can verify the source of payment.
Temporary Holiday Jobs
Most seeking employment can verify that there are a lot of employment scams out there. People are promised great jobs but have to fill out all this personal information or even pay a fee before they can land their dream job. These kind of scams only increase around the holidays advertising temporary holiday work. Again you must be careful who you share personal information with.
Free Gift Cards
Who doesn't want to win free gift cards? Not all scams are about money. Free gift cards are easily found on social media sites such as Facebook. It asks for to complete a survey and at the end you get a free gift card. When you're done with the survey another set of questions pop up. You keep going and you never reach the gift card but by the time it's obvious it's a scam you have shared your name, email address and birthday. From there you will get flooded with junk email and calls, some of which may be scams.
E-Card Rip Offs
Sending loved ones E-cards is a popular way to share love and holiday cheer. It's also an easy scam. When opening E-cards make sure you know who it's from and never give personal information to open a card.
Many charities capitalize on the holiday spirit for donations and this is a great time to give to your favorite causes. It's also a great time for scammers to take advantage of that cheer. Always make sure that you are donating to an actual charity. Look it up. Verify that the charity is truly what it claims to be.
Letters from Santa
There are many online options for your kids to send and sometimes receive letters from Santa. Make sure that the service is what it claims to be before giving them any personal information.
How to Avoid Getting Scammed
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, is a good thing to keep in mind," says Robin Belsha. "Also if you didn’t contact them, chances are it’s a scam."
Verify the business - Always verify a business before giving them any of your private information and especially before sending them any payment information.
Check the Internet and Snopes - Most scams and fake news can be easily found online through a basic Google search or on Snopes.
Presume it's a scam until otherwise proven - Scammers take full advantage of kindhearted people with charitable hearts during the holidays so consumers should be mindful that 'tis the season for scammers.
Give locally or to charities you know - Katy Christian Ministries, Hope Impacts, The Ballard House, Katy Cares, and many others are operating credible charities where residents can give back locally.
Scams are always a threat but the risk increases during the holidays. Be smart, don't rush through making online purchases or saying yes when approached. Take the time to insure that who you are doing business with is actually who you think it is.